On the same day that the business carbon offsetting platform Verra was revealed by the Guardian to be doling out phantom credits for trees that have not been planted, I was on my carbon literacy journey attending a deeply thought and action provoking course delivered by Hannah Cox, Manchester's sustainability super star.
Our day started with hot drinks in paper cups and Hannah was quite rightly disappointed with the venue not acting on her request for proper cups to accompany the proper tea (a Manchester supplied tea that actually tastes great). The venue was spot on for the event. Out of the window you can see Manchester's rapidly scaling skyline with a couple of visible roof-top trees and window cleaners are out doing a spectacular job of making the panes spangle. I'll stop romanticising about Manchester vista because what really makes Manchester special, is the people, the incredible work ethic, and the human creativity that is weaved into this city. Right now we need some global objectivity and it seems like this city, which often feels broken on the ground, actually has some infectious energy that can send a carbon conscious shock wave not only into the local business community but into the supply chains that connect us on a global systemic scale.
This really is my tinted perspective on the power of machines and the humans that power them and rely on them.
Before I start on why your email cadences funnel is a huge energy eater, here are the reasons to remain cheerful.
#1 An increasing amount of our energy is supplied by renewable sources and there is capacity to do more.
#2 Access to this technology is improving and it's getting cheaper. We now have a legacy of provider-knowledge to tap into. Norway are leading the world with Hydro engineering, India with solar engineering and right here right now England we are progressing with wind. That windswept look will be vogue again.
#3 It's okay to invest in your old car doing the millage it was built for rather than switching to an Electric Vehicle unnecessarily early. We cant do everything, we all just need to do enough.
#4 Traditional farming is not damaging the world. Intensive farming is. So shorter supply chains is key here and clearing your plate is not a sign that you're poor and hungry and starved between meals it is a sign that you are not a waster.
#5 There is an enzyme variant that eats plastic so if you're infuriated by the colossal use of plastic despite better alternatives there is progress here.
#6 The technology that can assist with carbon capture is improving at scale.
#7 The most effective carbon cleaning processors are naturally occurring trees. And the same technology that revealed large scale removal of centuries old ecosystems , can be harnessed to help us visualise that we are counteracting deforestation and acting kindly to our planet.
#8 The first electric plane has crossed the channel and Airbus are making progress with battery powered planes but we do need our train providers to get their act together because if their marketing is true and one trains can take 200 cars off the road, then their current state is environmentally disastrous.
#9 Whales are great carbon processing machines and whaling has been made illegal in Iceland.
#10 Tweaking the way we run our homes and industry is going to have a cumulative effect and we can make that a positive impact as we hold the power to make this desirable.
So the only questions that remain in my mind is, do we have the appetite to makes some tweaks and can we be happier doing more with our human energy?
Now that you are sitting comfortably , here is why we need to do our bit right now. The Met Office, NASA, NOAA and the Japanese Meteorological Agency have the unequivocal evidence that it is our human activities that is impacting the weather. This means that with the growing population we need to reconnect with nature both locally and globally and be more gentle and converse our energy transfer processes. It also means that we are going to need the businesses that help us satisfy our consuming desires do that in an environmentally conscious way..
The floods, the ice melts, the expanding oceans, they all have big downstream impacts that will hit r kids, great grand kids. The United States has had its first climate refugees. Louisiana is shrinking fastest and it losing land equivalent to a football pitch every 60 mins. There are many reasons to take the trends seriously but for me there are two trends that are show stoppers..
#1 the number of places that are becoming so hot that they are uninhabitable is expanding fast. This has consequences not just for the social and political displacement of people. The eco-system impact of lost wildlife and changed earth processes will impact food availability and everything will become unmanageable. ''I want to emigrate to the Sahara desert'' said no-one I've ever met. Whats more, scientists are concerned that we might reach a tipping point where the earth processes will kick start a huge chain reaction that will be of epic proportion, where your local park might resemble the Sahara and travel anywhere will be out of the question.
The second deeply troubling fact is that air pollution kills more than 10 million people per year. Deaths aside, air pollution impacts the quality of our lives whilst there is air in our lungs.
Okay that was scary to read, so lets tap into how collectively the businesses community can help sort this mess out on the ground.
Emails aren't great for the environment. Obviously this was music to my ears because I'm on the verge of naming and shaming businesses that put me in a funnel and attempt to convert me into their ideal clients by dumping all their consumable content into my inbox. But I know a lot of office workers who'd welcome the opportunity to to tackle email etiquette in the name of planet and their own energy.
There was a call to focus on supply chains and reduce the wasted energy in them. Hallelujah use data with you suppliers to strengthen your sustainable businesses relationship and audit that you are making the right moves.
Buy refurbished technology. This had not been much on my agenda but I do have an alarming amount of technology amassing in my home, exacerbated by the two cyborgs and I do think we as a society are struggling with our addiction to technology that is obsoleting too fast and becoming redundant in it's infancy.
If we all over index on locally sourced veg our carbon footprints will shrink even if our waistlines don't. Better for you and better for the planet.
Video streaming is incredibly energy hungry. Turning your camera off on teams will reduce your personal footprint and talking on the phone might get trendy again. But what do we to help our kids to appreciate their cumulative carbon shadow is a demon that we have not really got a handle on. I now have an environmental angle to bargain with.
For me data literacy and carbon literacy are inextricably linked up and I think that is what causes me my own personal climate anxiety. All our activities have a ripple effect and the technology is not going to solve everything, the people using the technology are going to solve it. The undeniable top line data of weather records is bleak and whilst you can argue with the predictions for the future of the planet you cannot argue with the past and the present. Hannah Cox's Carbon Literacy course has been a massive confidence boost to have more conversations. I now know the difference between carbon neutral and carbon zero, carbon footprint and carbon shadow and I'm better educated on what I can do as individual and what we can do as a collective. Like burning methane, this is a highly explosive stuff as it comes with economic and political noise machines. So if you have any energy in your tank, the next challenge is where will the money come from. I like the phrase that was used on the day "The cost of action is dwarfed by the cost of inaction'' so lets be having it, its not cool to be ignorant to nature anymore and every activity counts.
Demand better. Where there is demand, supply will follow.
My next blog will cover why information technology is important enough for me to wear and 'it matters' slogan t-shirt and point at my chesticles. Shops, retailers, warehouses, and logistics are key players in this jigsaw and we need consumers to demand better because behind the screens and behind the scenes, our workforce is at tipping point and without work, nothing works.